Wireless armband gesture-based controller


Final video demonstration of the wireless armband gesture controller (Despite the short hair that IS me in the video)

Project Summary:

Developed a wearable device that used body movements to wirelessly control some simple video games. The armband consisted of two EMGs (muscle sensors), an accelerometer, a flex sensor, and a TI CC1101 Microcontroller. The CC430 is an MSP430 with a TI CC1101 RF module included on the chip. The armband communicated with another CC430 that was connected to a Xilinx ARM-based platform running a real-time Linux distro. Actions from the armband were translated into computer controls that were used to control Tetris, Asteroids, and a simple platformer.

Intro and Background:

The project was part of the Embedded System Design senior design course at UW – Madison. Teams of 4 were tasked with proposing an original project and carrying out the full design and prototype development. There were a couple limited requirements; each team had to use the Zedboard running real-time Linux, incorporate the on-board Zedboard FPGA, and design an external PCB in Altium.

Our team chose to design a wearable armband that could be used to control video games running on the Zedboard.

Technical Highlights:


The armband contained all of the sensors used for controls. Challenges included wireless communication, EMG placement, and battery powered operation.

  • 2-channel EMG circuit
  • 2 generic analog sensor inputs
    • Consisted of variable voltage divider connected to an amplifier with variable gain. This allowed for any generic sensor that output a voltage to be used.
    • For our demonstration we used a simple flex-sensitive resistor.
  • 3-axis accelerometer
  • Altium schematic and PCB design
  • PCB antenna
  • UART to USB serial interface for debugging
  • CC430
  • Battery powered

Mezzanine Board:

The mezzanine board received the wireless communication from the armband and transmitted it via SPI to the Zedboard.

  • Altium schematic and PCB design
  • PCB antenna
  • CC430
  • SPI interface to zedboard
  • UART to USB serial interface for debugging


The Zedboard is a development kit for the Xilinx Zynq-7000 SoC. The Zynq chip itself contains a dual-core Arm processor, multiple communication interfaces, and an on-chip FPGA.

  • Real-time Linux distro
  • SPI driver
  • FPGA logic

Technical Documents and Photos:

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